Come Teachers’ Day and nearly 1.97 crore students in Maharashtra will watch Prime Minister Narendra Modi deliver a speech in Delhi.
PM Narendra Modi interacts with Indian children at a reception held in Tokyo, during his ongoing trip to Japan. Pic/PTI
After the NDA government’s asked schools to make arrangements to relay the speech, the state government has swung into action to ensure a good turnout for the occasion on September 5 that celebrates the birthday of prominent educationist Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan.
The Union Human Resource and Development Ministry issued a directive on August 27, telling all states that they “may make arrangements to assemble children in order that they may view the PM’s address on TV” on Teachers’ Day.
After meeting them via video conference the next day, the state school education department set up a task force comprising officials of the directorate of education.
The teams, formed at district and division levels, contacted schools irrespective of their affiliation, to rope them in for the event – their circular almost makes it binding on schools to comply.
The two-page circular has asked all the divisional commissioners, district collectors, chief executive officers of zilla parishads and civic commissioners to ensure the relay of the speech to all primary and secondary schools.
The responsibility to relay it is with the headmasters and school managements. While there was uproar over the reported compulsion to relay the speech, HRD Minister Smriti Irani clarified that it wasn’t a mandatory requirement.
However, on Tuesday, it became evident that nearly 1.01 lakh of the total 1.04 lakh schools would participate in the exercise (the remaining are situated in remote areas with no access to TV or radio).
This is particularly noteworthy, as the department of school education is headed by Rajendra Darda, who is from the Congress that has assailed the move.
Even Manikrao Thakre, president of Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee, has criticised the decision — calling it a sort of dictatorship. “There is nothing wrong in watching or hearing speeches delivered by the Presidents, Prime Ministers or Chief Ministers. But, the compulsion is a sort of dictatorship,” he has said.
“To ask school managements to borrow TV sets, if needed, apart from making generator sets available, was surprising. Even the directions to submit details of the attendance are also unusual,” Thakre said, referring to the directive which asked schools to make necessary provisions via TV, internet, radio for the event.
Pulling out all stops
According to data available with the state directors for education (primary and secondary), nearly 49,000 schools have TV sets to relay the speech for 1.20 crore students. Approximately 4.80 lakh students from 1,490 schools can witness it via webcast. As many as 2,700 schools will watch it on YouTube.
A whopping 65 lakh students in 43,000-plus schools will have to listen to the PM’s speech on radio, as they are unable to procure TV sets or don’t have access to it. 280 schools in Mumbai will air it on radio.
After the event, schools have also been told to report on the number of students and teachers who attended the event.
Meanwhile, the Congress is worried the speech may mar their chances in the upcoming assembly polls, going by the impact the PM made with his Independence Day speech. “We are worried as all the schools are being forced to relay the speech. What is important for us is its possible impact on students as well as their parents, who may not miss it,” a Congress minister said.
Party leaders are worried the speech may turn the tables for them in the state, going by past experience in the Lok Sabha election debacle.
No of students who will watch PM’s address on TV
No of students who will watch it via YouTube or satellite
No of students who will hear PM’s address on Radio
No of students who will watch the PM’s address on Webcast
'Propaganda for Narendra Modi'
While the state has put the wheels in motion to relay the PM’s speech on September 5, CM Prithviraj Chavan said there are severe resentments in parents and teachers about this move.
"We are cooperating with the logistics keeping delicate Centre-state relations in mind, but the tone of the circular is not good.
We will take it up in an appropriate forum,” he told reporters. “The entire official machinery is being used as a propaganda machine for one individual,” the CM added.